Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Beet and goat cheese pierogies

Don't be a roadblock in your own life. This is my latest mantra that persuades me to get outside and run in the evenings, that gives me the courage to go talk to the wise and intimidating microbiologists at work and that convinced me to not come up with excuses for biking among the Gulf Islands over Canada Day weekend.

The phrase is clearly self-explanatory but let me elaborate. I make a lot of excuses. I put my work, my aversion to the unknown and my introverted desire to spend time alone ahead of many of the opportunities that come my way. It finally occurred to me, or maybe it just finally registered in my brain, that this way of thinking is stopping me from doing a lot of potentially wonderful, mind-expanding and memorable things. In other words, sometimes, I stand in my own way.

Surely, many of us do this in our own way for our own set of reasons, impeding us from participating in our own unique set of could-have-been experiences. Since this is a food blog, I will elaborate with a food example. Many people, if you ask, will say "I do not like mushrooms". This will generally prevent them from ordering food or trying recipes that have mushrooms in them. In this case their perceived decision that they do not like mushrooms prevents them from experiencing an entire world of amazing recipes such as mushroom risotto, probably one of my favourite things to eat in the entire world. 

I also used to be a mushroom hater, so I understand how someone can say that they do not like mushrooms. I know that many times mushrooms are not ideally incorporated into a dish, they are not optimally presented or their texture is slimy. I also know that it can take time to acquire a taste for a food before it can be appreciated. And most of all, I know that once you learn to like a new food, you open yourself to an entire new world of edible possibilities.

I will give you another example of a roadblock. I hate going down hills on my bike because of how fast you go. At least that is what I would have told you last week when Mike mentioned an opportunity to go on a Gulf Island bike trip with some friends over the long weekend. This bike trip required cycling 11 km across Salt Spring Island, taking a ferry to Vancouver Island, cycling another 11 km to another ferry to get to Thetis Island and cycling another 6 km to a cabin. 

Now, I have been on these islands before, in my car, along these roadways that weave up and down and around. I have seen the cyclists caught in the pouring rain, struggling up one hill and then racing down the next. I would stare at them through my nice warm passenger seat with pity. That does not look fun, I would think. Roadblock.

Mike warned me that he was not going to take the lead and force me on this bike trip, if I wanted to go I had to set things in motion. It was the perfect opportunity to make excuses and bow out; spend the long weekend at home. But my new mantra echoed in my head. Don't be a roadblock in your own life. 

So, even though the entire idea made me a little uncomfortable, I also really wanted to go away for the weekend. I was determined to see the endeavor through. I went to MEC and picked up some panniers, picked up some "on the road" groceries, planned and plotted the ferry times and the rest is history. And there is not one ounce of me that regrets going on that trip; an experience that will not soon be forgotten. Now that I have one bike excursion under my belt, I have opened myself up to a whole new world of future adventures.

I'm not saying it was easy. We caught up with four other bikers, headed to the same destination (a friend of a friends' cabin), on the ferry to Salt Spring island and so the pressure was on me to not be a wimp. It only took one steep leg straight uphill for me to appreciate the following steep downhill, and it only took a few minutes for me to clear my head, to focus on pushing myself upwards and gliding quickly and freely back down the next slope. There was rain, and for a few minutes it was annoying, but it was also refreshing. Especially on the way home when the weather was warm and my skin was on fire from exertion, a little rain was welcome.

Next time, when I am on the Gulf Islands in my car, watching a biker on the side of the road I will think a few things. First I will think about how much they are going to enjoy their next, well-deserved meal. I am going to think about how great they will feel when they finally reach their destination and I am going to envy how effortlessly they will sleep that night, no matter the surface they will sleep on.

Ten days have passed since I returned from my bike trip and already I am on to my next adventure. Mike and I are about to embark on a road trip from Vancouver to Regina for an old friend's wedding. We only plan to stay for a couple of days before looping back in the western direction for some alpine camping, hiking and hot spring dabbling.

Last night, when I should have been packing and planning, I instead made these beet and goat cheese pierogies that are to only be made if you are a beet lover. I thought these were pretty amazing pierogies but if you are looking for a more traditional recipe you are in the wrong place. These are essentially beet dumplings; roasted beets were blended with potatoes and goat cheese then wrapped in a pierogie blanket. I cooked, served and enjoyed these pierogies in the same way I would a normal pierogies, with sauteed onions and sour cream.

Beet and goat cheese pierogies
Makes about 45 pierogies
Dough recipe adapted from Food and Wine

2 cups peeled and chopped beets
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups chopped potatoes
3/4 cup goat cheese
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt

2.5 cups flour
1 cup sour cream
4 tbsp butter melted
1 egg + 1 egg yolk whisked
1/4 tsp sea salt

Onion, sliced (amount depends on the number of pierogies you want to cook)
Sour cream to serve

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Toss chopped beets with olive oil, garlic and a generous serving of sea salt.
3. Spread beets out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
4. Roast beets for 35 minutes, tossing once half-way through cooking time.
5. Place chopped potatoes in a pot and fill with water so there is an inch of water above the potatoes, add salt to the water.
6. Bring water to boil and boil potatoes for 10 minutes, drain and cool.
7. Mix dough by just combining the dough ingredients, form into a ball and cover while you prepare the stuffing.
8. Once the beets and potatoes are cooked and cooled, they need to be mashed. I do not have a potato masher or a ricer (I would recommend using one of these if you have them), so I first mashed them with a pastry knife. Once roughly mashed I pulsed them in a food processor until roughly smooth (pulse only, you do not want the stuffing to become gluey). 
9. Season with sea salt and mix in the goat cheese until evenly distributed.
10. Divide the dough into 3 sections. Roll them out 1 at time until about 1/8 inch thick.
11. Use a 3" diameter cookie cutter to cut out rounds. Hold a round in your hand, place in a tbsp of filling and seal the ends (use water if needed to seal the edges). Spread out pierogies on a baking sheet.
12. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pierogies for 5 minutes.
13. Meanwhile in a pan, heat 2 tbsp of butter. Add chopped onions, drain pierogies and stir into pan cooking about 5 minutes per side.
14. Serve pierogies seasoned with sea salt and pepper and with a side of sour cream.
15. Freeze any pierogies you do not eat for future consumption.

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